WHO DEFINES UR BLACKNESS? More black publications hire white fashion directors & we are still asking why young black children still choose the white doll over the black doll.

Black tells you how you look, but it doesn’t tell you who you are” -John Henrik Clarke.
It seems there are some Black Publication who are riding this quote without getting its intended message.  Just because Black just tells you how you look, doesn’t mean White can tell you who you are.

I hope Black people in particular really take heed to this quote because enough is enough with being stuck on stupid & acting like we don’t know any better, being the perpetual victims as we victimize ourselves while acting as if the information which we say we seek in defining who we are historically as a people is not readily available to us if we are honest about seeking it. It saddened me to see the video below & to be reminded decade after decade, year after year that Black children still prefer the white doll over the black doll & still do not see themselves as beautiful. At this point in history, we have no one to blame but ourselves because we have done a disservice to our youth- generation after generation. Our story started before slavery & continues above & beyond slavery, so let’s stop continuously allowing ourselves & others to make the entire sum of the Black experience globally to be based on a story that consists solely of pre-slavery, slavery & post-slavery with a mix of white supremacy throughout that entire experience. This only allows us to continue the mentality & bondage of slavery that taught us not to appreciate & love ourselves for our many shades & shapes that existed way before slavery.

I always associated black with ugly. I was too dark and didn’t have nice hair,” said Catherine de la Rosa, a dark-skinned Dominican-American college student spending a semester here. “With time passing, I see I’m not black. I’m Latina.To many Dominicans, to be black is to be Haitian. So dark-skinned Dominicans tend to describe themselves as any of the dozen or so racial categories that date back hundreds of years — Indian, burned Indian, dirty Indian, washed Indian, dark Indian, cinnamon, moreno or mulatto, but rarely negro.The Cuban black was told he was black. The Dominican black was told he was Indian,” said Dominican historian Celsa Albert, who is black. “I am not Indian. That color does not exist. People used to tell me, ‘You are not black.’ If I am not black, then I guess there are no blacks anywhere, because I have curly hair and dark skin.” READ MORE

Globally we are all descendants of Africa but slavery is what came into play in our human greed & envy to separate us. We will all watch this video & shake our head & be disgusted & horrified that young people & even babies are expressing this type of self hate in their blackness, but we fail to listen carefully & to hear that these ideas that manifested into self hate came from people that looked just like them rather than the White media, slavery & everthing else we choose to blame besides ourselves. We can not teach our children to love themselves if we have not found that love within ourselves. No white person ever taught these children about or gave them bleaching creams– WE DID THAT. Whether it is a family member or friend calling a child outside of their name by calling them “a lil nigga” or relaxing a 3 year old’s hair because her hair is too nappy & unmanageable at an age when she can only comprehend good or bad & not that mama has 3 jobs & 3 kids that she has to feed, get dressed & ready for school everyday before she can even get to her first job, when she just came from her 3rd job less than 5 hours ago & is running on 3 hours sleep & doing it all alone; so she is just looking for any possible way to make her daily process go faster & smoother without thinking that she is teaching her child to hate her hair because the pain of the relaxer feels more like a punishment than anything any child can possibly comprehend as helpful or good. Whether it is our own publications, videos, films & over all media giving preference to the type of Black that is closer to white, be it Halle Berry & Beyonce over Angela Bassett & Estelle- WE DID THAT!

I stopped reading Ebony, Essence & Vibe Magazine a long time ago because they just didn’t speak to me nor really excite me in their content, the same way I had no interest in spending my money on Vanity Fair, Vogue or Glamour because they really didn’t speak to me or excite me in their content either; however the only diffrence is that Vanity Fair,Vogue & Glamour never told me that they were ever there to represent me as a Black woman in defining my Blackness in beauty.

A few days ago I received a text from a friend telling me how the “Blackarati” of the fashion world were in an uproar because Essence magazine had hired a White Female Fashion Director & in a matter of hours I also found out that Vibe Magazine had already done the same & we have all known that the new “Blackarati” darling, Arise Magazine took this colonial mentality straight from Africa & started from jumpstreet with a white woman defining what we now applaud & embrace as global Africaness in beauty, fashion & music without giving a second thought to who is defining our Global Africaness for us because we as Black people have always been so welcoming, hospitable  & open minded, which historically has led to being taken advantage of, being stripped of all that we own & being redefined by others to a point of global systemic self hate & confusion!

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It is not simply nor solely about a matter of Black & White, but about legacy, strides & the fact that not much has changed for the majority of Black people in the world even though many would like to convince us that it has & that there is no need for any forms of affirmative action or exclusivity in the type of black pride & support that built these publications & media outlets when we had none & were specifically being shut out. As Fela says “Teacher don’t teach me no nonsense“… cuz dem all crazy.  This anger & protest is more to me about economic empowerement than just  fashion & Black & White, particulary at a time when there are more unemployed Black people in America than any other group of people.

“The black fist is a meaningless symbol. When you open it, you have nothing but fingers — weak, empty fingers. The only time the black fist has significance is when there’s money inside. There’s where the power lies.” Jesse Owens

As much as I strongly agree with the words of Jesse Owens, I strongly disagree with the words of  advice from Robin Givhan of The Washington Post to Essence Editor Angela Burt-Murray because I do believe that Black women are special & whether it comes negatively or positively in our inclusion or exclusion, we are reminded daily of our “specialness” in the world of fashion.

Instead of wishing that the brouhaha over Placas would die down, Burt-Murray should take to the airwaves and hold up her decision as a sign that Essence isn’t just about black women. Black women aren’t “special.” They are individuals and they are universal..” READ MORE

When it’s beneficial to the white world at large then we should all be color blind & have diversity & equality for all, but I would rather Vogue take the first step in that direction before Essence because we’ve had a lot less time to enjoy the fruits of our labor before having to be the one to share it in good faith,diversity & racial progress. We owe it to ourselves in our “Ode to Black History” to be a little more conscious & sacred about the way we pimp it out or in some cases get pimped in allowing everyone to put their hands on it & to get a piece of it.

This is not to say that these White Fashion Directors, Editors in Cheifs etc. at publications focused & geared toward global Black lifestyles can not do the job or do not do a good job, but what message are we sending to our young people & particularly young girls like the ones in the video above when we allow White women to define our Blackness in style & beauty at our limited number of publications, while knowing very well that such an opportunity has never & will most likely not be  granted to us at a Glamour, Vogue or Vanity Fair because they are clear on who their target audience is & who they will allow to define & speak to that target audience.

Before anyone has the audacity to call me some sort of reverse racist since it seems to be the soup du jour chant of the moment, I want to ask you to be truthful to yourself in answering these questions: Were you in an uproar or did you even find anything wrong with Vanity Fair having a young Hollywood issue during the time of the Oscars featuring an all white cover pictorial with many unknown actresses while intentionally leaving out two Black female actresses –Zoe Saldana & Gabouray Sidibe- 1 whose movie was not only nominated for best film but also is the highest grossing film til to date & the other whose film received multiple nominations along with her own “best supporting actress” nomination? Have you ever found anything wrong or even questioned Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour & countless other publications who have never appointed a Fashion Director or Editor In Chief of any color other than White & who rarely if ever employ  Blacks as head fashion stylists, make up artists, hair stylists, photographers & art directors on major shoots? If your answer is No & you still think a Black women should not have the right to prefer to see another Black woman define her Blackness in a publication geared toward her, then maybe you are part of the problem of continuing a legacy that can find fault in the few Black publications having an obligation to employ Black people who are amongst the highest number of unemployed, particularly in such a limited nich market and allowing them to define our Blackness over a White woman.

The heads of these publications who are making these decisions to choose White over Black are the reasons why our children will always choose the white doll over the black doll. It seems intrinsically innate no matter how many years pass, how old we are or how many strides we have made. Don’t give me the usual BS about just a matter of  choosing the best candidate for the position which was not based on color, or that the world is changing & we have to be inclusive & diversify while others don’t see the need to be nor are they questioned about not doing so, or that amongst the high numbers of educated & unemployed Black people that a Black publication just couldn’t find a black person to give a hand up to because I am one of those African-Americans that knows better than that & refuse to believe that BS because I could have personally given you a long list of very accomplished, willing & able candidates.

I will give these White FD’s & EIC the benefit of the doubt because Arise Magazine has been consistently well done & has sparked my interest with every issue even though I believe there is room for more magazines  in this market to come out to compete, so I can decide if it’s actually solely because of the Editor’s superb vision, or because the content is rare & the only one of its kind in the market that sparks my interest or if it’s because it is truly as good as it gets. I have had the experience where  many White publications were more willing to showcase & feature African designers & African inspired fashion more often & long before some of these same Black publications when they had Black FD’s in charge, so as much as I am not happy with the decision made, I will hold judgement on the individual’s abilities & what they will & can bring to these publications in the long run.

For some reason Black publications always seem to feel limited by their Blackness & look to be accepted & validated in every way by bending over backwards to be inclusive in their hiring practices in high profile positions instead of  being inclusive by having the world come to them based on the level of their work, their standards & content as most other publications do. I know a White photographer who basically has made his entire living off of working for Black publications, but with every job he gets with these publications he acts as if  he is doing them a favor & that they should somehow feel privileged to be working with him instead of the other way around, even though very few White publications are knocking at his door because his body of work/book is filled with mostly images of Black people. This same said photographer is notorious for coming out of his face sideways  in speaking on & addressing Black people  & culture in his Lizzie Grubman/Liz Cohen Jewish “Power Girls”moments of thinking he is hired so often because he is the one that can keep Black people in check & on schedule -this arrogance & disrespect is who we put in charge of creating & defining the Black image! How can we ever forget the New York Magazine Story delving into how a crew of Jewish girls had pretty much taken over the PR , branding & image making of  many hip-hop artists where Liz Cohen stated, “She’s totally down with her clients like Funkmaster Flex,” says Cohen, impressed.  “But they needed two bigmouthed Jewish girls to tell it to these guys “.

We destroyed the high potential of  Black publications like Honey Magazine when we lost its initial focus & tried to revamp it as some sort of multiculti magazine that would represent every woman of color.  We can’t be everything to everyone & we will always lose our power, leverage & be  made a fool of when we lose our focus & try so hard to be multi-culti/bi-partisan. Ask President Obama how well that has worked out for him. Unfortunately this is our legacy, where we would rather not do the research when information is readily available to us, where we would rather think the worst of ourselves rather than give the benefit of the doubt, where we will easily compromise ourselves & our integrity to win white favor.

It was beyond amazing to me that after years of me trying to speak to everyone possible in order to get BET to showcase African artists from the motherland as a general part of Black Entertainment Television’s programming & award shows that this year they finally included a few African artists in a “special category” in their award show with little fanfare & acknowledgement, in the same year that the biggest story of the awards show announcements was that White Canadian artist, Justin Beiber was up for the coveted award of “best new artist”, which of course included no Africans from the motherland nor the diaspora outside of the USA even though BET has launched internationally- proving once again that we are often our own worse enemies in our setbacks & lack of  global forward movement. Once again the Joke was on us!

We have bought into & convinced ourselves that we are the consummate minority whose ultimate goal & achievement is to be accepted by the so called mainstream majority, while failing to do the research in attaining the power of information that would have told us that the Black experience is global & blackness represents a larger mainstream global majority which doesn’t tell us who we are because that part is up to us to define from Harlem, to Bankhead, to Kingston, to Old San Juan, to Santo Domingo, to Port au Prince, to Brixton, to Marseilles, to Salvador de Bahia, to Lagos, to Dakar & to Accra! We are global Africans with diverse roots in Black Africa & we should define ourselves accordingly!

Sub-Saharan Africa does not bring to mind an image of a woman with perfectly manicured nails flipping through glossy magazines in search of the latest handbag or celebrity haircut. Yet such women are there, and in far greater numbers than the news media’s portrayal of Africa might suggest…In the wealthy neighborhoods of Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; Luanda, Angola; Dakar, Senegal; and the like, ladies of leisure, successful businesswomen and middle-income housewives make up an attractive demographic that, in the past, relied on international fashion magazines for style and beauty information..But in the last few years, while Condé Nast, Hearst and Hachette Filipacchi were expanding throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, a handful of African publishers were busy staking claims to this publishing territory. A result has been a series of new glossies, like Arise, HauTe, Helm and True Love, that put an African spin on fashion…“Honestly, upwardly mobile African readers are crying out for this magazine,” said Helen Jennings, editor of Arise, a monthly style publication started late last year by the Nigerian media tycoon Nduka Obaigbena, who also owns the country’s leading newspaper, ThisDay. “Because the local magazines aren’t as high-end or progressive, and no other international titles speak directly to an African readership, Arise has really caused a stir.” READ MORE

In the same week that the last of the strong holds in Black American fashion & beauty publications defined by the dark glowing beautiful skin, pearly white teeth with a gap &  deeply rooted & perfected African conrows of Susan Taylor had been handed over to a White Australian, an article came out saying how Vogue had declined Cameroonian photographer Mario Epanya‘s creative crusade  in trying to bring about Vogue Africa. As much as I applaud Mario for his obvious creativity, I wish we would stop chasing mainstream & create our own, but our own also ends up needing & calling on mainstream to legitimize us, i.e. Vibe, Arise & now Essence. Why Blame Vogue for not wanting to include Vogue Africa in its roster instead of blaming ourselves for our unwavering misguided need to beg for inclusion from those who have never mixed their words about us not being their priority? Why not seek to partner with historically Black Ebony Magazine who is looking to revamp & bring newness to a new generation of global Black consumers & who has an archive of images in Black history that would probably make The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture foam at the mouth to be able to get their hands on it? Why not build from within instead of always looking out?

We do not need Vogue Africa to legitimaze our creativity, our beauty & our blackness. The covers below are sophisticated, elegant, engaging, inviting & authentically & beautifully African, having Vogue on it doesn’t make it any more or less representative of that. When are we going to realize that we will never be their target market & source of their funding & energy ? We will always be thrown a bone in a “special issue”  & no matter how successful that special issue is it will still be  shrugged off as a fluke & an anomaly. Vogue only has to look at its numbers  & the numbers of Arise & the few African centered publications that have popped up in the last few years to know that Vogue Africa makes sense financially, but God forbid  that Vogue Africa becomes more financially viable than it’s mother Anna Wintour with her current crusade to invoke Black exclusion & to wipe out black culture literally from her backyard!

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“Instead of the issue not selling, it became the highest selling issues of Italian Vogue ever, and had run out of print twice, which marked the first time in Condé Nast history that the magazine reprinted an issue to satisfy demand. The reprinted copies had the tag lines: “Most Wanted Issue Ever” and “First Reprint” banded across the front. ..However, even though the advertising pages went up 30 percent. There was a “glaring lack of black models” in them. The photographer for the issue Steven Meisel, said: “I’ve asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say no. Advertisers say black models don’t sell.” With the immense success of this issue, the question isn’t is America ready for a black model, it is now are magazines and advertisers ready for one?Read More

We need to set our own standards within our own defintions & stop embodying & manifesting that White is right thru what we buy, what we read, who we hire, who & what we support & what we aspire to in life while we pump our Black power fist in the air- it’s a contradiction where the ultimate joke is played on us by us! With all the Black wealth in sports, entertainment & other fields being heralded in magazines like Forbes, Sports illustrated along with other publications & lists which in recent years have had Blacks from all over the world at the top of the list, you would think we would have our own fashion groups, investment banks, production studios, music groups & publishing houses like Condé Nast, LVMH, Morgan Stanley, Interscope & Dreamworks so we would not need to beg Vogue to put out Vogue Africa, or watch the dreams of young aspiring & talented global Africans in fashion, film, music etc. get deffered because they did not meet the standards to get their projects greenlighted by a white mainstream that only has a few slots for an exclusive few Blackarati!

We don’t have to wait for someone to greenlight our projects we can create our own intersections..we don’t just have to act in the sitcom, we can own the show & the network..we don’t have to be at the end of the line waiting for a hand out, we can be at the front giving a hand up..we don’t have to wait for somebody to give us 40 acres & a mule we can buy our own.. U can b born into a whole lot of a nightmare but God can usher u into a dream” Tyler Perry

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30 Comments

  • Vonmiwi

    July 25, 2010 at 10:15 am

    All I can say is Halleujah! It’s about time! We need to read and hear more of the truth! It’s not racist to self-define who and what we are and I don”t need to prove otherwise to anyone!

  • Vonmiwi

    July 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    After reading what ABM had to say on the grio, she basically threw Michaela under the bus and backed up over her and did it again.

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  • Jason Richardson

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    Totally agree. As an industry it is very much monetary driven – whoever the consumers are believed to be that’s what the runways and magazines pick up. So it was excliting to see at NY this past autumn exciting African designers and designs, which made it into Vogue over here in the UK and created quite a buzz. Come to think of it, if there are any young designers out there who want to give it a punt, I’d be happy to trial showcase their work … maybe little by little we can change it from the commercial side. I guarantee if we start making sales the rest of the industry will take notice.

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